The 3.7 million people of the island of Puerto Rico have endured two recent, major earthquakes, and thousands of aftershocks since December twenty-eighth.
The largest earthquake slammed the southern region registering 6.4 on the Richter scale January seventh. Another magnitude 5.9 rocked Puerto Rico on January twelfth.
Tens of thousands are sleeping outdoors or under tarps for fear of buildings collapsing. Many have lost their homes entirely. Schools cannot operate until there is certainty of the safety of the structures. Power is intermittent and refugee camps lack basic hygienic needs. Medicine is also in short supply. This all comes on the heels of the deadliest hurricane, Maria, to hit the island in 2017 destroying infrastructure and killing over 3,000 people.
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Congress had allocated $18 billion to help with natural disaster readiness following the devastation of Maria. HUD should have dispersed these funds in 2018, but the Trump Administration refused the aid citing “fiscal mismanagement”. FEMA is on the ground and trying to help. No mismanagement has been documented or proven.
The withholding of aid to those urgently in need has been cited as “illegal” and “unconscionable” by members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats. They have repeatedly requested the administration release the already appropriated funds. Their demands have largely been ignored. While writing this I have learned that 8 million of the 18 billion are now being released. It is a pittance towards the need.
The blatant disregard for life has become a hallmark of the Trump Administration. What will it take to call back the compassion that we have so willingly relinquished?
Unity for what is decent is required now. Dignity for those struggling in Puerto Rico is what is needed. A government of, for and by the people is not too much to ask.